Parents do not always have rights to children’s medical records

The Iowa Supreme Court’s decision in Harder v. Anderson, Arnold, Arnold, Dicket Jensen Gullickson and Sanger, L.L.P. , ruled that a parent, despite having joint legal custody of the child does not have an absolute right to obtain copies of their children’s medical, counseling, and therapy records.

Here, a non custodial parent sent a valid authorization to release records to her children’s counselor. The counselor refused to release the written notes of the records, but offered to meet with the parent to discuss the children’s treatment. The non custodial parent refused this offer and filed suit to obtain the written records.

The decision holds that the joint legal custodial rights granted by Iowa Code Chapter 598 do not mandate or require disclosure of this information to parents if it is not in the best interest of the child. Here, the therapist stated that such a release would not be in the child’s best interest.

Although not explicitly stated in the record, this case appears to have arisen from a high conflict, long running, divorce with continuing disputes over the children. Further, the non custodial parent was convicted of assault on one of her children. While these facts are extreme, the best interests of the child will always take precedence over the parent’s legal rights.

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